Summer Produce in the Winter
We’ve all heard of the good ant that saves summer food for the winter and the bad grasshopper that didn’t. It was that enjoyable, old Aesop’s fable with the lesson of saving the fruits of summer for the winter. Indeed, a big hooray for the ant for his foresight. Growing up in a Mediterranean culture, I would sometimes visit my grandparents’ farm in Turkey. What I saw there was this same practice of saving summer produce for the winter. It was not just a fable though; it was a way of life. I took it for granted that there was no Whole Foods in the eastern part of Turkey to get anything and everything at anytime, one must either save it or wait for it. This was not only a practice of culture but this is the essence of sustainability. Seasonal was surely not a trendy word for my grand mother and those around her in their Mediterranean community, it was how they had to eat. What I have done in my home is used this practice as a way to honor it for the goodness it provides in food especially in better, truer nutritional value and the goodness it provides in principle in playing my part for more sustainable practices for the environment.
Here is one way to incorporate the lesson of the famed fable in your life: start by growing summer vegetables such as red peppers, eggplant and zucchini and then roasting them in the summer to freeze them for the winter! By roasting the vegetables, you prolong the life of the vegetables by stopping enzymatic reactions from degrading the food. Also, by roasting, you don’t lose any of the water-soluble vitamins like you do with boiling. My grandmother actually grew loads of red peppers this past summer in Turkey. It was a great season! I spent time actually grilling the red peppers with her and then we peeled any charred skin before putting them in plastic bags for the freezer. When you grill or roast vegetables, they take on a soft texture that is perfect for adding to healthy dips, soups or stews to have through out the year. The vitamin contents of the vegetables are also preserved by the prompt freezing of them.
I particularly love red peppers from the garden. They are crispier, no pesticides (red peppers are one of the dirty dozen for pesticide laden vegetables) and they impart so much more flavor! Not to mention, buying ready made roasted red peppers in a jar is quite expensive. Once you freeze the red peppers, you can make Muhammara dip which is a delicious Mediterranean red pepper spread made of grilled or roasted red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate molasses. All you need is a bit of foresight to freeze vibrant red peppers of the summer for the winter and a food processor to make this delicious dip!
Muhammara- Mediterranean Roasted Red Pepper Dip:
2 cups grilled or roasted red peppers
1 cup walnut, very finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
½ teaspoons cumin
¼ teaspoon sugar
Freshly cracked pepper
Dash of cayenne (optional)
1) In a processor, mix all the ingredients of red peppers, walnuts, breadcrumbs, olive oil, onion, pomegranate molasses, cumin , sugar, salt and cayenne. It should have a grainy texture.
2) Spread over serving dish and drizzle a little more olive oil. You can also garnish with pine nuts or parsley.
Article also found in Food & Nutrition Magazine website: http://foodandnutritionmagazine.com/summer-produce-all-winter-long